- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

MIAMI (AP) - Federal authorities have charged 104 people with numerous identity theft and fraud offenses in the latest South Florida crackdown on a rampant problem involving tens of thousands of stolen personal identities.

The charges involve fraud ranging from filing false tax returns to takeovers of bank and credit card accounts to skimmers used to steal information at gas pumps, said Miami U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer.

The 81 cases announced Tuesday involve intended theft of more than $60 million.

“These ID thieves are stealing the blueprints of our lives,” Ferrer said. “The schemes are varied. These fraudsters have no shame.”

In one of the largest cases, an employee at Miami’s Jackson Health System is accused of stealing identities from 24,000 people using hospital computer databases. Court documents show Evelina Sophia Reid, 35, is charged in a 14-count indictment for an alleged scheme that ran over five years. No attorney is listed for Reid in court documents.

Another case highlighted Tuesday involved Andre Oakley Wellington, 37, who authorities said conspired with others to impersonate Internal Revenue Service agents who falsely told people in telephone calls they owed money to the government. The group allegedly stole more than $550,000 from one victim.

Wellington’s attorney did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Federal officials say South Florida remains the nation’s epicenter for fraud linked to identity theft. Since 2012, Ferrer said more than 600 people have been charged with such crimes while trying to steal some $600 million from individual accounts, government programs such as Social Security or unemployment benefits and personal credit cards.

The penalties can be steep. A conviction for aggravated identity theft carries a required minimum two-year prison term for each count plus up to 10 years on top of that.

“It is a strong reminder that we are not backing down,” Ferrer said.


Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: https://twitter.com/miamicurt

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